Let's define a mystical experience first. Dan Merkur, author of Gnosis: An Esoteric Tradition of Mystical Visions and Unions, lists the five most common symptoms of a mystical experience (from The God Part of the Brain, pg 134)
- a sense of unity or totality
- a sense of timelessness
- a sense of having encountered ultimate reality
- a sense of sacredness
- a sense that one can not adequately describe the richness of their experience
I was deeply religious as a child, from about age 4 to 12. I was so terrified of burning in hell that I was baptized 3 times in 3 different churches. I went to Sunday school, church, bible camp, I sang hymns, I prayed, I studied and read my bible, and had bible lessons for a short while. But in all those years, I never once had a mystical experience. I never felt god. I never felt the touch of the divine.
After I gave up on religion, I wandered from one spiritual practice to the next. I meditated, I practiced all kinds of energy woo, I sat in circles with others and we prayed and chanted, I sat in a sweat lodge and chanted and drummed and sweated. I tried my hand at everything I could think of. I had heard others talk about connecting with the divine, of having mystical experiences. But in those many years of spiritual searching and experience, I never felt anything mystical. I never felt a sense of timelessness, or one with the universe. I never felt a sense of sacredness or ultimate reality. Not once.
Maybe, unlike 85% (or more) of humanity, my god gene is turned off. So, I thought I'd ask you a few questions. You can answer by email or in the comments below. But I'd love to know the following:
- Have you ever had a mystical experience?
- If you had a mystical experience would you consider it religious (pertaining to God), or spiritual (more universal, not religious), or just a brain phenomenon at the time and after contemplation?
- Did the mystical experience cause you to seek out a way to try to make it happen again? Did it make you try to be more religious or spiritual in some way?
- If you have experienced something mystical, are you still spiritual or religious now? Is that in part because of your experience in any way?
- If you had a mystical experience and you're now an atheist, how did you reconcile that with being a nonbeliever now? Did it make it harder to lose your faith, do you think?
- Are you like me? Have you never experienced anything like what I've described?
- If you've never had a mystical experience, do you think that has made it easier for you to be a nonbeliever?
- If you've never had a mystical experience and you're religious or spiritual, how does that make you feel? Are you actively searching for this experience that others are having and you are not?
- Do you have anything to add that I didn't think of?
Thanks in advance to anyone who takes the time to answer these questions. I'm wondering if it's just me who is devoid of the mystical, or if maybe there is a correlation to those of us who don't believe in any gods.